- Associated Press - Friday, April 11, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Belhaven University senior Jocelyn Zhu is headed to the prestigious Juilliard School next fall for its master’s program for violinists.

She’s only 19, but the young musician from Madison graduates in May, at the end of her fifth year at Belhaven.

“I kind of took a victory lap,” she joked before adding, “this is the first year I’ve been older than the incoming freshmen.”

She entered school there at 14; count it as just another early start.

At age 3½, Jocelyn’s fingers were too tiny for the piano keyboard, but her arms were strong enough for the violin and its bow.

“She was my first child, and I home-schooled her,” her mother, Jane Zhu, said.

She wanted to add music to the mix for her daughter - “make some noise, having fun, nothing big,” she said. “That was really my intention.”

“Of course, I love music,” Jane Zhu said, and she wanted to share that lifelong enjoyment with her child, “maybe try to see if she could have some hobby.”

Around age 10 or 11, fiddle lessons with Tammy Mason gave way to classical studies with Song Xie, associate professor of music at Belhaven, violin and viola instructor, orchestra director and conductor and chamber music coach.

“She always wanted to study music and was really passionate about it,” Xie said, praising Jocelyn’s discipline and commitment to working hard to achieve, as well as her “outstanding gift in music.” Jocelyn, he said, “has all the elements, all together.

“That’s very special for her, and it’s wonderful to see that happen.” She’s grown, too, through classical festivals, camps and competitions, connecting with top-level professionals. Musical performance can be a tough, competitive world, but Jocelyn has a foundation of spiritual peace,” Xie said. “We see many kids that are basically crushed when they’re not ready for tough competition.”

She’s been a full-time musician with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra close to two years, and subbed for a couple years before then.

“I think all high school students, at one point, really want to quit, because it’s a lot of work,” Jocelyn said.

Her mom recalled a love of soccer that nearly surpassed it for a time.

“Getting past all of that, it’s just the thing that causes me the most joy. And it’s a way for me to express myself,” Jocelyn said of playing the violin. “I just feel like it’s my calling to do this.”

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